Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Mr Jim Watt

  1.  I have listened with interest to the submissions to the Foreign Affairs Committee of Mr Peter Caruana and Mr Peter Hain on the 28 November 2001[1].

  2.  As previously I made a written contribution to the Committee on an area I had particular knowledge, I would like to again clarify a vital point which was unfortunately not explained by the Chief Minister of Gibraltar who has clearly not been adequately briefed on this highly technical issue.

  3.  This is a technical issue and the Spanish "generous offer" requires interpretation.

  4.  I am an IT professional of some 30 years experience, with a specific knowledge of telecommunications. I am not employed by the Government of Gibraltar but advise companies regarding telecoms in Gibraltar and am recognised as an expert on this subject.

  5.  Gibraltar has been allocated an international country code by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) of 350. Within this country code the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority (GRA) is responsible for producing a numbering plan in consultation with the local operators, in the same way as OFTEL in the United Kingdom.

  6.  In ITU terms a "country code" does not have any sovereignty meaning, as indeed Canada and the USA share the same "country code" of 1.

  7.  Spain refuses to accept the Gibraltar code of 350 and instead insists on treating Gibraltar as a part of the province of Andalucia.

  8.  At present Gibraltar has a numbering scheme based on five digit numbers. Because of historical reasons related to the interworking of the Military exchange and the Civil exchange some prefixes are not available. As a result of developments like fax machines, the Internet and the growth of business and home use of "the telephone" the present five digit numbering scheme is at its limit and cannot cope with future needs.

  9.  You will be aware that the United Kingdom has several times changed its numbering scheme to accommodate expansion of the network and the introduction of new services. The actual numbering scheme, or "number space" is always much greater than the anticipated number of physical lines or operating numbers per capita.

  10.  When Sr Piqué talks of "granting Gibraltar 100,000 telephone lines" he really means he is allowing Gibraltar to increase the Gibraltar numbering scheme in a way strictly limited by Spain.

  11.  This is not a matter of physical lines, as the Gibraltar telecom companies can always purchase as many lines as are commercially viable.

  12.  At present, if Gibraltar increased its numbering scheme by including an extra digit, it would be impossible to dial any of our numbers from the Spanish network, which is clearly unacceptable.

  13.  As with the case of refusing roaming agreements in respect of GSM mobiles, this is direct economic sabotage to the economy of Gibraltar.

  14.  That "generous offer" when viewed from a technical perspective is somewhat less than what one would expect in a modern Europe.

  15.  In addition the non-recognition of our code of 350 causes problems with incoming calls from other countries which are routed in transit through Spain. This is a highly technical issue, but the only solution is the correct use of the assigned Gibraltar code.

Mr Jim Watt


January 2002

1   1st Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2001-02, Gibraltar, HC 413. Back

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